Alex Jones podcast episodes yanked from Spotify over “hate content”

“We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” Spotify said in a statement to Billboard. “Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of podcast for violating our hate content policy.”

It’s unclear what speech specifically got those episodes removed from Spotify, and it’s unclear which episodes were deleted.

Nevertheless, still appears on Spotify with more than one year’s worth of episodes still available for streaming.

Users had been putting pressure on Spotify to do something about Jones and his conspiracy-theorist content on the service. Users took to Twitter to express their frustration with Spotify’s decision to host such content and some have even cancelled their Spotify subscriptions in protest. One suggestion to ban Jones’ podcast from the service has received nearly 2,000 votes on Spotify’s Community submissions page.

Much like Facebook in its recent spat with Jones, Spotify likely felt compelled to act after user outrage. Facebook removed four videos from Alex Jones’ page earlier this week and slapped him with a 30-day ban from the site after the company determined he violated its community standards. This came after YouTube removed four videos from Jones’ channel, saying they violated the company’s hate-speech and child-endangerment policies.

How many strikes before you’re out?

Jones received strikes to his accounts on Facebook and YouTube as a result of those violations. On YouTube, channels will be removed if they receive three strikes within a three-month period—but strikes expire three months after they are received. Facebook handles strikes a bit more nebulously: an unspecified number of strikes against a personal channel or page will result in that page getting unpublished. Facebook banned Jones for 30 days because the company had already told him that he would be punished if he continued to violate its community standards.

Spotify announced its hate content policy back in May, and it states that prohibited content is considered anything that “expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”

While the hate content definition hasn’t changed, Spotify had to walk back a related policy that stated it would move to ban artists from playlists that have engaged in “hateful conduct.” Those in the music industry were outraged by this policy, and Spotify swiftly changed course and dropped the policy. Somewhat confusingly, the company reinstated the now late rapper XXXTentacion to its playlists, but it decided not to reinstate R. Kelly.

Also confusing and unclear are punishments that may result from violating Spotify’s hate content policy. The company states that it will remove such content from its platform, and users are encouraged to notify the company if they spot potential hate content on its service. But Spotify’s methods of handling accounts that post hate content, like that of Jones, are unknown. Currently, Spotify hasn’t stated if Jones could be banned from its service soon due to excessive violations, nor do we know if the company has a strike system similar to Facebook and YouTube.

Valentina Palladino Valentina is the Associate Reviewer for Ars Technica, covering all gadgets with a focus on mobile devices and wearables. She has a soft spot for Chromebooks.
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